Five years is a milestone by any accounting — a time to look back over what’s been accomplished, and turn a purposeful eye toward the future.
For the Buku Music & Art Project, this weekend’s fifth iteration at Mardi Gras World also marks a new beginning.
In August 2015, Winter Circle Productions’ hip-hop and electronic dance music-focused event was acquired in part by AEG Live, the massive entertainment company that co-produces the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival; the deal also established a new Gulf Coast office for AEG.
The 2016 Buku is also the first one to be produced with the help of Goldenvoice, the AEG company behind major American destination festivals like Coachella, Stagecoach and Firefly.
It’s a big step for Dante DiPasquale and Reeves Price, who launched Winter Circle in 2009 when both were still Tulane students. Price and DiPasquale now hold VP titles at AEG, the former in operations and the latter in talent, which requires him to split his time between New Orleans and New York City.
For DiPasquale, Buku’s lineup represents New Orleans’ subculture.
“I think it complements other festivals and events in the city, because it shines the spotlight on this sort of useful bubbling underbelly of New Orleans that is real and is a real positive contribution to the city,” he said. “I think it’s sort of bringing New Orleans into the spotlight for a lot of young kids who maybe felt like there was no outlet for the music they listen to or the lifestyle that they live.”
The Buku grounds at Mardi Gras World are essential to the festival’s identity.
The twin smokestacks behind the main Power Plant stage are part of Buku’s visual branding, pictured on official poster art.
The unique indoor-outdoor staging creates multiple discrete vibes for the festival, from the sparse, cavernous Ballroom to the Float Den, with its leering, colorful papier-mache Carnival scenery to the VIP S.S. Buku riverboat, docked in the Mississippi.
That’s been both a benefit and a challenge for organizers.
“It’s a lot of work,” said DiPasquale. “It’s not the easiest site. You would think, ‘Oh, it’s a small site, so it’s easy to navigate.’ But it’s the opposite. The smaller the site, the more jammed you are and the more creative you have to be with the space. Every single square foot is calculated.”
Who’s playing at Buku?
Post Malone at 4:30 p.m. at the Power Plant
Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals at 5:30 p.m. at the Ballroom
Chvrches at 6 p.m. at the Power Plant
Fetty Wap at 8:15 p.m. at the Float Den
Crystal Castles at 9 p.m. at the Ballroom
Baauer at 9:30 p.m. at the Float Den
Kid Cudi at 9:45 p.m. at the Power Plant
Future at 6 p.m. at the Power Plant
Earl Sweatshirt at 7 p.m. at the Ballroom
Miike Snow at 7:45 p.m. at the Power Plant
Purity Ring at 8:45 p.m. at the Ballroom
Pretty Lights at 9:30 p.m. at the Power Plant
A$AP Ferg at midnight at the Ballroom